“And never forget …”: How the 1st FC Union from the underdog to the top club was

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  • Andreas Baingo
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Fans of the 1st FC Union. in the stadium An der Alten Frsterei.

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It could become a date forever carved in stone in Kpenick. This is manifested as iron as January 20, 1966 or June 9, 1968. Maybe as the May 28, 1988. All these are milestones in the club’s history of the 1st FC Union Berlin. They are long back, because they form the club founding of the Red-White, the truly sensational 2-1 victory in the final of the FDGB Cup against the newly crowned champion FC Carl Zeiss Jena and the almost fairytale rescue before actually safe descent from the DDR-Oberliga.

For this, a political change, a new stadium, many player, coach and presidential generations later and 30 years without Erstligafuball, could come a new date that holds a historic moment: 19 May 2019, the second division away game at VfL Bochum, at the final whistle at 17:20 clock the first rise of the former locksmiths from Oberschneweide in the Bundesliga could be perfect.

Rocky path

It has been a long way to this point, until one step outside the door to the preliminary football sky. A rocky especially, full paved with hurdles and harassment, with license denials and massive money problems, with all sorts of sanctions and stumbling blocks. But also a full of idolatrous love and affection of all kinds, ending in magical rescue operations, redemptive cash flows of the then Kinowelt giant Michael Klmel and a downright mythical resurrection. A life and giving for the association, which for some is more than the family, which means everything to one and to which one is faithful until death separates us.

Out of this harmony and sense of intimacy has arisen the legendary greeting that symbolizes eternal friendship and connectedness, this UNVEU that is more than a program that implies a sense of life. And never forget: Iron Union!

It’s a bit of the story of David and Goliath, albeit not entirely biblical. They are the little ones, the underprivileged, the bemused and the pitiful, when they meet 53 years ago in the clubhouse “Karl Liebknecht” of the transformer factory in Oberschneweide to raise their 1. FC Union from the baptism. It is, and they are incredibly proud, next to the FC Vorwrts Berlin, the National People’s Army football club, and the Berlin FC Dynamo, the national security forces’ club, the only civilian football club in the GDR capital. Thank Herbert Warnke, chairman of the Free German Trade Union Confederation (FDGB), who asserted his influence and brought the special role of the metropolis into play.

Second division they only play and run so to speak under the radar. Not every game they win, but that’s not so important, but at the end of the season they rise as first FC Union for the first time in the league. What is more important is that something grows and thrives that starts out tiny, yet produces more than 500 suggestions on how the supporters and sympathizers imagine the club emblem of their heart club. Paul Fettback, as a club secretary the man of the first hour, is blown away. Even on the founding evening, he promises: “The mere participation of the public in our naming, the many suggestions and proposals oblige us to come in any relationship to a better quality. This also includes constant contact with football fans. “

The delicate beginnings of a fan culture are a bit cumbersome for today’s standards, they are meant to be honest. But without politically leading heads, the club does not come out. In addition to the CEOs of Kabelwerke Oberspree (KWO) and Transformatorenwerk Oberschneweide (TRO), ministers and secretaries of the SED district leadership, the first board also includes a politician, who attended the “Evening of the Republic”, in the peaceful political change of autumn 1989, Big achievements: Hans Modrow. The native of Mecklenburg, actually the last leading politician of the GDR and 1990 member of the first all-German Bundestag, is then 38 years 1. Secretary of the SED district administration Kpenick. When the 1. FC Union celebrates its biggest success with the 2-1 in the cup final in 1968, Modrow has also risen on the career ladder. The trained locksmith has been a member of the Central Committee of the SED for one year and thus one of the best in the country.

Only: The continuity with which the politician goes his way, the footballers are still missing. They are not always responsible for that. Once again, in 1968, politics bothers them. Because they are allowed to start internationally as cup winners, the joy of touring Europe, and if it was just a round, is huge. How bitter is the disappointment, as the draw, which is to lead the Iron to Yugoslavia to FK Bor, is canceled because of the invasion of the Warsaw Pact countries into Czechoslovakia, there is a new opponent with Dynamo Moscow and the GDR teams on their Games have to give up the highest political instruction. Only a short time after their biggest coup, the football gods are victims of the “Cold War”. Only 33 years later, in September 2001, the grandchildren of the then heroes as DFB-Pokalfinalist but still go on a European tour.

Lousy conditions

There is also the story of ups and downs, of the back and forth of the followers, who naturally prefer Dynamo Dresden and Carl Zeiss Jena received as a season later and a league deep steel Finow and Dynamo Frstenwalde. The sword of Damocles hovers over the club already in very early years, that is not a blemish after the reunification. When neither in 1974 nor in 1975, the re-emergence succeeds in the Oberliga, it requires political advocacy, so that the club status is not lost. Three years in a row in the second division, that’s not the claim of the Iron and certainly not the claim that the officials have to the club. The conditions are rather lousy. Old barracks serve as changing rooms, showers, secretariat, coach room and kitchen in one. The physiotherapist, who at the time is called a masseur, moves to another building, which has just as many years under its belt and is hardly better equipped.

Even then, following the mainstream, coaches are fired and presidents are exchanged. As club chairpersons, the most competent are not always in office, but always those who internalize the leading role of the workers and peasants state. It is highly probable that some are suspected among them, and so to speak are being injected on behalf of the now big local rival BFC Dynamo. They do not appear in the first row, but rather in the second and third. Even coaches come, if only in one direction – from the BFC to Union. Some are seen as moles, some as helpers, as one who may bring fresh wind.

There are all facets, but above all animosities to open enmity between old forestry and sports forum, even if the externally documented cooperation is to pretend otherwise. But it is also halfway normal. Players change sides and do not necessarily run pecking rods. Rainer Rohde, Olaf Seier and Ralf Strer, for example, come from Hohenschnhausen to Wuhlheide. They are received with sympathy and go as a career hero, team captain and top scorer. Mario Maek, who also came from the Weinroten, enjoys cult status for a time after his legendary last-minute goal in 1988 for the 3: 2-Klasseerhaltswunder in Karl-Marx-Stadt. Conversely, Waldemar Ksienzyk, but especially cup hero Reinhard “Mcki” Lauck in the sports forum career, they become national team, champions and Mcki even World Cup participants and Olympic champion.

At the same time this is the time when the Iron Age after their league promotion 1976 in both duels against the Dynamos sensational win 1: 0, as they triumph in questionable field references and debatable penalty in defiance. Better they can not perceive their role as David against Goliath.

Only in this long-standing tough struggle there are also a few “backgammons” in which the outsider can really go to the neck. Six, seven, even eight goals in 90 minutes are almost on the agenda. What cheers the devastated Union soul, as many years later the archrival, in a much deeper league Although, with 8: 0 swept out of the stadium and announce the result for months on the iconic scoreboard of triumph. Revenge is sweet, but this revenge tastes like honey.

But what would the 1st FC Union be without the history of the pistol, even if it is not a revolver story? Ammunition is also included. Neatly separated, but kept together. What sounds like Wild West, takes place deep in the east of Berlin, in Kpenick just, in the Hmmerlingstrae 88, upper floor, former office of the highly ambitious then third division, even if the gun is not there.

At the same time there is Horst Kahstein, the man who owns the pistol: doctorate, yet quite rustic, he is a big guy and his views are quite often shirt-sleeved. His roots are in Lithuania, where his ancestors owned several estates.

It often drives Kahstein to Vilnius. It is the business that connects the former head of department in the State Secretariat for Physical Culture and Sport in the GDR, who has to do with the economic and recreational center at the then Leninallee, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the Lithuanian capital. So, just a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, did he have the pistol stored in Kahstein’s house in Grunau?

Kahstein so, in February 1994 for a few weeks, first manager of the 1st FC Union, who has repeatedly targeted the leap into the Second Bundesliga, but never made it, thinks he is the savior of the workers’ association from the Old Forester. Others, Pedro Brombacher perhaps, who has already lost his heart at times to the club, as is still in the elevator between DDR-Oberliga and league, the Wuhlheide also want to make socially acceptable, before Kahstein already, only by other means. Unfortunately, with a fake bank guarantee of over a million marks. A comparatively ludicrous sum in the world of professional football, whose commercial wheel turns faster and faster. Even then. Many, including the 1st FC Union, want to turn the wheel.

Only the thing flies up and the club around the ears in such a way that the existence is endangered. Brombacher, who once hired Frank Pagelsdorf as a coach and brought it with his kind at least in the vicinity of the Second Bundesliga, remains unfairly not a good deal. Rather, there are legacies such as insane contracts with which players on the one hand and coaches on the other hand in the truest sense of the word are lured, of which later no one wants to have known.

Therefore, the gun that brings Kahstein from home when he drives with 250 000 D-Mark, distended at the last minute before the deadline for the license to the German Football Association (DFB), to a bank to deposit the money in the evening. “People have been killed for much less,” he says.

The fact that the manager, not much later also president, primarily represents his own interests, because he wants to make money with speculation on the ground and it does not harm him a function in the club at least, only much later. It is an outgrowth of that supposed gold digger time, which pushes some, including the 1. FC Union, rather to the abyss.

This time in the early 1990s marks something like the middle of yesterday and today at the club, which is now preparing to rise to the Beletage of German football. An association that is always convinced of itself even in the most difficult times and who often likes the role of the fighter against the establishment. The Robin Hood from the forests of the Wuhlheide.

This is how the followers feel. They too want to show it to the big, the rich, the pepper sacks. Always since 1966. Even more after the sensation triumph in the FDGB Cup in 1968, when Jimmy Hoge and Ulrich Prfke, Meinhard Uentz and Wolfgang Wruck, Hartmut Felsch and Hajo Betke, Rainer Ignaczak and Wolfgang Hillmann, Ralf Quest and Jrgen Stoppok, Harry Zedler, Mcki Lauck and, of course, Werner Schwenzfeier, whose trainer diploma is signed by Sepp Herberger, set the newly crowned champion Carl Zeiss Jena 2-1 on the cross.

Many of the elders associate this day, June 9, 1968, with that moment of their red-and-white becoming, the moment of becoming Unioner. It may well be the day when the iron devotees discovered the word “football god” for their pets.

Patches they now popping on parkas and denim jackets, as the opponents away from the football field still Walter Ulbricht and then Erich Honecker, Socialist Unity Party and BFC Dynamo hot. From mummy or rather from grandma, they are knit scarfs in the club colors, as these utensils do not even have the status of a fan article. The word merchandising is not yet invented, but they have nevertheless recognized many miles against the wind on the often tiny details and on the logo on the club emblem that unites them all. Union! The very old former club president Gnter Mielis is still astonished today that the bourgeois-inspired “Union” in the club name made it through the socialist censorship.

Eisern (they are old locksmiths) Union! It is the brace against society, it makes them allies, a clique. They want to be different even then. They still are today, even if there are fights and riots in some places and in some opponents, hostilities and malice.

But which fan base can claim to have built their own stadium, the living room for the professionals, by hand? Risen from ruins so to speak. Who, if not the fans from Kpenick, can claim the patent for the Christmas singing in their own stadium? Just when the club is mercilessly dirty, the followers are there. This is in the DNA of every fan from Wuhlheide. “We have always, in every time, looked for ways and means to make the best of everything,” said Gnter Mielis, the great old man of the Iron, “so we are also no lawsuit.”

But on the contrary! A proud club has become of the Schlosserjungs, one with more than 22 000 members and thus one of the 25 strongest clubs in Germany.

Dirk Zingler has managed to do that, once one of the most ardent followers, a stadium and iron junkie and for almost 15 years President: “There was always a high and a down. But we endured that. Why did we endure that? Because football has always been fun and because Union has always been fun. “

So the club continues to grow. While the bailiffs were lurking at the ticket booths at the stadium to ask for pending health insurance contributions and payments to tax offices, the few sponsors were more likely to be ridiculed for sinking funds into a bottomless pit for the closing season Revenue of 47.076 million euros, a profit of 70 000 euros predicted. In terms of the licensing players department, spending over the previous season increased by € 1,713 to € 16.325 million. Thanks to the building material logistics company Zingler, poor Schlucker has become quite a second-division heavyweight, and now plans to expand its arena from a current total of 22 012 visitors to a capacity of 37 000 visitors.

“Medium term” in the Bundesliga

“The stadium is a project for the next decades of the club,” says the president, putting the Senate administration under pressure, as he has managed despite the current stadium, when it has not yet heard the club, despite all opposition. He also promised at the recent general meeting: “We want to continue to invest in the infrastructure and medium term in the First Bundesliga rise. But that does not work at the push of a button. “

Maybe yes. Maybe on Sunday, when in Bochum the 15th victory of the season succeeds and dynamo Dresden against the Paderborn SC Schtzenhilfe makes. Perhaps also only on 27 May after the relegation return match at home against VfB Stuttgart, who played as the third last of the First Bundesliga against the third placed in the second Bundesliga the last ticket for the Erstklassigkeit. Then the Alte Frsterei would burst at the seams for the sixth time, as it had already at five sold-out league games this season.

What would Bundesliga mean for the “green” district of Kpenick with its more than 65,000 inhabitants, who are already groaning at home games about a traffic collapse after another? Even more attention, even more sales, even more attention to safety, even more traffic, even more traffic jams – but above all an even bigger adventure.

In this sense: And never forget!